April 21st. 2023
Michi no eki Sakagura Okuizumo and Orochi no sato
Michi no eki Sakagura Okuizumo Koryukan is a dead place. It is flat and has good toilets so for an overnight stay it is fine. Except that the signs tell you not to do that. As a michi no eki it has nothing except the sake products that it wishes to sell as it is basically a sake brewery. There is not even a drink vending machine, so we set off before breakfast in search of coffee. This we find at michi no eki Onochi no sato about 14 kilometres away. This is a much more pleasant place with a view of a dam lake, though not from the car park you have to cross the road for that.
Sugaya Tatara Sannai
The first stop of the day is Sugaya Tatara Sannai. This is a preserved Edo era iron smelting works. This particular works was actually in use in some form up until the 2nd. World War or was revitalized as an iron works at the time. Which indicates considerable desperation. That is why the buildings remain much as they were in the late Edo era.
It is said the Tataraba in the Princess Mononoke film was modeled on this place.
There is not much to see, just a large, lofty barn like structure (Takadono) and a large clay bath with an array of bamboo pipes leading into it. The roof is interesting being made of wooden Chestnut tiles.
The guide gives an informative explanation, not in English, and we learn about the enormous quantities of iron sand excavated to produce a small amount of viable ore. The remaining sand being dumped in narrow valleys to gradually build up and form rice fields. D. was very interested in the whole process.
Finally, we are encouraged by the guide to follow him up the short street of old buildings to a bridge over a narrow stream, where, by means of a small bag tied to the end of a long bamboo pole, he coaxes a large salamander out from its hiding place under some concrete steps. We then see there is another salamander in the same hiding place. Apparently, there are 3 or 4 others in the short stretch of steam. All in all, well worth the entrance fee of 310 yen.
Sanbe Jomon no Mori Museum
From the iron works we set off to visit Sanbe Jomon no mori museum. We arrive via some very obscure back roads, (our Navi. does things like that). On entering the small building, we note the price of admission, the size of the exhibits, mainly of charts on the wall, and beat a hasty retreat. The cost benefit analysis did not prove favourable.
Sanbe San Nishinohara 三瓶山西の原
At Sanbe San (Mt. Sanbe) Nishinohara the same applies to the restaurant though sadly this did not become apparent until after eating the lunch.
The parking here though is spacious, well away from the road and with good 24-hour toilets, so a fine spot for shachuhaku. We have not stayed here though clearly people do.
We only stopped to stretch our legs on the pleasant walks. There are courses of different lengths but all essentially around the same patch of gently sloping hillside. There are good views in the lee of the mountain, cows in the fields and lots of birdsong – crows, larks, uguisu, pheasants and oriental greenfinches. Also people were picking spring wild vegetables.
Michi no eki San-eito Mito
Finding food in this area is problematic so we take a trip towards the coast and route 9 to buy dinner. Then follow Route 9 for some distance, here though it carries very little traffic, before cutting inland towards michi no eki San-eito Mito. This place is very small and most of the parking is on a bit of a slope. There is also a road in front and immediately behind the parking area but very little traffic. The facilities are small but adequate. The shop surprisingly is open until 7pm. We are the only vehicle here. Though not an obvious choice for an overnight it serves very well.
Apparently, modern Shiba-inu (Japanese dog breed) can be traced to a dog called Ishi that came from around this area.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.